North Korea News & Reports
reader recently wrote :
to know something about the gay situation in North Korea.
Could you send me an e-mail if you know something?
There is such fear and secrecy about many aspects of North Korea that
it is difficult to find anything reliable about everyday
life there--and double so about homosexuality. The concept
of same-sex attraction hardly exists in the minds of people. Even with
people who feel this attraction, there is ignorance about what it
means or how it can be expressed in
It is not discussed in public and it's a likely assumption that almost
all gay or lesbian people are conditioned or coerced into marriage
and they live that way
understanding their conflicted feelings. Even for
someone with a bit of knowledge about human behavior the official view
is that homosexuality is an
aberration that exists only in a capitalist society.
I am sure there is homosexual activity in some places but these would
be impossible to find and, as well, surrounded with fear and ignorance
and guilt. Since sexual desire and longing are felt in people of all
also guess there are some very secret places where anonymous homo sex
happens, but probably at night and very quickly. There would be no
lingering 'love-making' but rather getting off and then running home.
I searched the Internet and found almost nothing. There was one story
excerpt from a newspaper in Pakistan about NK workers in Cuba. A second
reference is a blog summary about an escaped NK man who had no idea
how to understand his homosexual feelings until he got to South Korea
exposed to information and the freedom to act on his feelings.
Here is what I found on the Net:
From Daily Times, Pakistan (http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_6-3-2003_pg4_12)
(Excerpt from a longer story about Cuba and North Korea,
not about homosexuality):
I’ve heard two anecdotes (from different sources) about
worker exchanges. The Korean sugar cane brigades, before they set out,
were firmly told where fraternization stopped. Fellow communists they
but Cuban women had deplorably lax morals and were strictly off
limits. Anyone tempted was instructed to--how should I put this--practice
'self-reliance'. Perhaps the order was misunderstood. A friend working
in Cuba at
the time told me that at least one batch of North Koreans were sent
for homosexuality, of which Castro is notoriously intolerant.."
From: Marmot Blog (http://blog.marmot.cc/archives/2004/10/29/no-gays-in-north-korea/) 29th
Original publication in Far Eastern
Review October 28, 2004
No gays in North Korea?
Forty-four-year-old Jang Yeong-jin worked in the fisheries
industry up in North Hamgyeong Province, married to a pretty school
teacher whom his mother fixed him up with. Problem is, he felt
attraction to the woman, so he was continually stressed and uncomfortable
in the sack. After 7 years of marriage, the couple still had no
children, and despite several visits to the hospital, they couldn’t
discover the reason. They eventually had a son, but after 9 years of
applied for divorce. The North Korean authorities rarely allow
divorces, however, and permission was denied.
In the end, believing his wife would be happier without him, he
escaped to China in a bid to defect, but was apparently denied
entry by the
South Korean embassy. Returning to North Korea, he decided to skip
the middle men of the S. Korean Foreign Ministry and defect the
hard way through the DMZ in Gangwon Province. During the course
investigated by the nice men of S. Korea’s National Intelligence
Service, Jang said he defected because, well, he disliked having
to share a bed with his wife.
Two years into
his residence in South Korea’s relatively open society, Jang
happened upon a photograph in some newspaper of two men kissing.
this put some lead in his pencil, or to put it the Dong-A Ilbo
that moment, he felt a thrill through his entire body.” It
was then he realized he was gay. Afterwards, he began reading gay
magazines, visiting gay bars and “sharing
love” with other men. Jang finally felt “boundless
However, last year, a man with whom Jang had
fallen in love after meeting him in a gay bar absconded with the
the defector had managed to save up. Penniless and ill, Jang lost
his house and has been living in a rent house in Ansan. He vented, “Adjusting
to life in the South has been tougher than crossing the DMZ.”